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Why start-ups need to think about development ASAP

Topics: Behind the scenes

In the start-up world, you quickly realise “start-up” means ambiguity at every corner and often, very little structure. However, this also means a blank slate and opportunity to develop skills and expertise you would never have in a big corporation (because it’s all hands on deck).

With the amount of ambiguity in our day-to-day, it is natural for us to crave structure and guidance on what growth and development looks like.

Often, there are common themes among candidates on why and what they’re looking for in a new role:

  • The flat structure seems great, but I don’t know how I can develop or get a promotion
  • I have the freedom to work on different projects, but I don’t know how I’m doing
  • I enjoy the flexible workplace, but…?
  • Do I need to become a manager?
  • don’t want to be doing what my line manager is doing, so what’s next?
  • I want to code but I also want to grow and develop…
  • They are stuck in their ways and resistant to change

Most candidates feel there is a lack of feedback and/or clear development with their current employer. As a result, they leave.

In DrDoctor's case, we wanted to get ahead of this and were keen to find out from our team what their views were. As suspected, we found the same themes prevalent amongst our team, particularly within the juniors.

Armed with this information, we were inspired to build a development framework for the whole DrDoctor team so everyone would know exactly what good looks like.

We set out on a mission in June 2019.

We are not the first company to develop a Framework to help guide our team. Check out some of the Engineering frameworks from many forward-thinking companies. In particular, we love the Spotify framework which highlights how growth is not just a progression up, as in, you do not need to become a manager! You can still hone your skills, abilities and behaviours as an Individual Contributor.

How Spotify approached it and how we applied it:

  • Outline the key qualities of everyone who joins and stays on our team/define what good looks like at DrDoctor
  • Collaboration from teams to define what that good looks like in each department/specialty
  • Behaviours over skills to ensure there is an impact and we’re not keeping/hiring brilliant jerks
  • Use this to determine performance and guide growth
  • Help with hiring scorecards to avoid gut feel decisions (Improve Diversity & Inclusion)
  • Stretch goals at the world level
  • Used as a guideline rather than a comprehensive list

How did we do it?

  1. Research where other companies have seen success and where they struggled
  2. Lots of collaboration and an ongoing working group with reps from each department
  3. Reminder to everyone this is a live document which will be updated as we continue to grow and improve our development process
  4. Getting professional feedback from an executive coach
  5. Set up ambitious task completion dates
  6. Use collaboration tools
  7. Finalise even though we knew it was not perfect

How do we use it now?

It is still very new! Late summer we ran a couple of trials to see how the framework would be used and it has been very helpful in guiding conversations and setting OKRs. We use 7geese to help facilitate 1:1s, reviews and recognition so they reflect the qualities outlined. We are now ironing out some of the bits based on feedback we have received, and this will continue to change and evolve as we grow. Stay tuned!